C. Hinsley

1 August 2020

One of the most powerful methods I've found for overcoming distraction from flow states is the use of task priming. These distractions are caused by the encroaching influence of shallow tasks and environmental uncertainty; such diversions appear in virtually every type of work. Task priming is a fairly straightforward technique that almost completely eradicates the need for explicit, structured planning, outside of tasks that require large amounts of creativity and prior analysis. The technique is simple:

The important thing here is that you are not wasting free processing cycles on optimizing the task you are currently working on; a requirement if you are working on tasks that you can apply task priming to in the first place is that you should be able to accomplish tasks without your full conscious attention throughout their duration. You might have an upcoming task that requires extra attention, in which case you should devote special attention towards priming for the task itself during the completion of the task preceding it to save time and maintain focus. Otherwise, you should focus on the transitions between tasks, the context switches — allocate all conscious effort towards them.

Put simply, task priming boils down to: Start working, Visualize what you will need to do next, Focus on the transitions between the tasks more than the tasks themselves.

When you perform task priming, you are making full use of your conscious ability and diverting attention both away from external distractions and internal "wandering" of the mind. Typically this results in lessened cognitive fatigue after a bout of work, as well as a significant amount of time saved due to increased efficiency. Just as well, I wouldn't be surprised if the technique were something that a person improves at with continued practice. The jurisprudence exercised in selecting which tasks to prime, and on just how to prime them (What exactly should you visualize? How should you orient yourself in preparation for context switches?), is a central dilemma in problem solving generally. Task priming provides a well-defined, versatile, efficient framework for stacking these priming selections and makes it easier to identify one's flaws in that aforementioned jurisdiction.